Georgia and Caleb Nott are no strangers to the mechanisms of a perfect pop song. The New Zealand sibling duo – better known as Broods – shot to recognition with their debut single, ‘Bridges’, in October 2013 and have since managed to cultivate a sound that is at the same time carefully manufactured and authentic. After a brief hiatus, their third studio release, Don’t Feed the Pop Monster is a return to form, a neat presentation of pop songs that are both energetic and lyrically thoughtful. It’s a highly anticipated release from the pair, having both been doing solo projects since the release of Conscious in 2016, coupled with being dropped by Capitol Records. In the aftermath of change, does it measure up to the expectations?
Don’t Feed the Pop Monster is a carefully constructed release, with no room for mistakes. The pair show their skill and expertise here – there are decades old influences in the sound, but it’s intertwined with contemporary influences. Broods can slot easily in with their peers, like Allie X or MS MR with Don’t Feed the Pop Monster but it doesn’t ever mean that they can’t stand out.
Every track feels heavily considered, every track tightly produced. There’s a danger with trying to ensure that an album is cohesive, it can lose character and any real sustenance. Songs get lost in a blend of ‘fitting in with the album’, and lose any innovativeness. This is something Broods have side-stepped here with varying degrees of success. Though some songs could be excused of being overly similar, after multiple listens, you began to pick up unique features on every track; from the lightly-disco inspired ‘Hospitalised’ to the synthesised vocals in ‘Peach’, every track has something that gives it its own flavour. This is not a generic pop album, though some on first listen may easily dismiss it as such.
The tracks that shine on this album are the ones which branch out from pure pop, to lend heavily from pop adjacent genres; indie, rock, etc. ‘Old Dog’ is one that immediately stands out the first time you listen – a sleazy B-52’s nostalgia trip, its hip-hop drums and how aggressive it is lyrically, compared to the rest of the album – “I’m an old dog now / tried to wash off my fleas / get your piss off my trees”. It’s especially a jarring comparison with the soulful ‘To Belong’ which precedes it, where Georgia Nott gently sings “that man and his music made the heavens sing / closest I have ever been / wish that I could go again” over acoustic guitar and handclaps.
‘Everything Goes (Wow)’, which was released as a single before the album’s release (following the infectious ‘Peach’), is an breezy and light, indie-inspired moment and it’s not a surprise to hear that the song’s lyrics (“If we walk in the sun / we’ll have peace when it’s done”) were written in a treehouse in Nicaragua.
Something to be appreciated about Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, is how it offers something new on every listen. There are some moments on the album which don’t shine quite as brightly the first time round, against tracks like the ones above, or the other singles – ‘Peach’, ‘Hospitalised’ but after a few listens, they start to hold their place. ‘Too Proud’, where Caleb Nott takes centre stage for the first time, falters at first to stand out against the energy of other tracks. Easy to take for granted as a classic pop ballad, it’s a track which sneaks up on you, and quickly becomes a favourite, as the pair’s effortless harmonies and the honesty of the lyrics – written about Caleb’s experiences with depressive episodes – lure you in.
With Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, Broods are sticking to what they do best, but it’s not a case of resting on their laurels. Rather, the duo know what they can do well, and have honed that ability succinctly and really rather wonderful. Aoife O’Donoghue